Hamel, J. ThomasDied
Jesuit Father J. Thomas (Tom) Hamel, longtime spiritual director and mentor, died on Jan. 13, 2013, after 69 years as a Jesuit. He was born in Weymouth, Mass., on June 12, 1926. His parents were Wilfred and Mary (Reid). His brothers Paul and Robert are deceased.
Fr. Hamel attended St. John’s School in South Quincy, Mass., and entered the Cranwell School in Lenox, Mass., in 1940, the year the school opened. He fondly remembered his years as a student at Cranwell. He graduated in 1944, when he entered the Jesuits at the Shadowbrook Novitiate in Lenox. During his Jesuit formation he earned a BA and an MA in philosophy and an STL in theology from Weston College, Mass., and a PhD in Middle Eastern Languages from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He was ordained on June 14, 1958.
Fr. Hamel was assigned twice to the Baghdad Mission in Iraq. He was a regent at Baghdad College and after his ordination returned to teach at Al Hikma University. He went to doctoral studies the year before all the Jesuits were expelled from Iraq.
After studies he was assigned to work at the Round Hills Retreat House in South Dartmouth, Mass., in 1972. He was there the last year the retreat house was functioning. He then was assigned to the Eastern Point Retreat House in Gloucester, Mass. He was part of a team that convinced the provincial to transition the house from offering high school retreats to individually directed retreats. The provincial’s response was; “We’ll try it for a year. I am trying to sell the property. Who wants rocks anyway?” Fr. Hamel worked there the next fourteen years. Fr. Hamel described retreat ministry as having spiritual conversations with retreatants about how God is looking for them as well as how they are looking for God. A retreatant once asked him, “Will God show up?” He responded “Why not ask him?” Fr. Hamel knew the text of the Exercises inside out, and he had a profound grasp of the role of imagination in studying and praying the gospels.
Later on, Fr. Hamel was a mentor and then co-director of the Center for Religious Development in Cambridge, Mass. He also worked as a spiritual and retreat director to the wider communities at Fairfield University and the College of the Holy Cross. He spent the last eight years at the College of the Holy Cross. He moved to Campion Center in the fall of 2012.
He once said, “If custom were to allow us to put a farewell on our gravestones, I would like to see etched in stone a favorite phrase from the Spiritual Exercises:
Ac ita demum in patris mei gloriam intrare.
And so at last to enter into the glory of my Father.
The Latin has a ring to it and sounds so much better than the English.”